Albert Chen, chairman and founder of Carmel, Ind.-based logistics, energy and telecommunications firm, Telamon: Don’t expand beyond what you can meet and afford. It’s a key point. Sometimes we borrow over what we can handle and when that happens the bank can squeeze you out. Don’t be afraid to turn down projects that are too big for you to handle, because in the end, you may regret taking them.
Minority-owned companies sometimes suffer from two problems: weak management and financial instability. Your management team must be strong and constantly emphasize quality. You also have to make sure your finances are solid and don’t bite off more than you can handle.
Business is about relationships. And all relationships rely on trust. So when your clients are able to trust you, everything is much easier and runs much smoother.
Jorge Plasencia, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Republica, a Miami-based advertising, PR and media firm: Accessing new markets has never been an issue for me. Even in circles where I may not know people. I cold-call or email them and introduce myself. You can’t be afraid of rejection. If I hear there’s a new CEO, I pick up the phone and call them to set up meetings. Persistence is key. Where there are obstacles, I see opportunities.
Joann Hill, chief of the Business Development Group for the U.S. Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency: You have to engage people. Whether you’re a minority owned business or not, you have to network and work those networks. I know some people who went to our events five times before meeting the people they needed to meet.
Carlos Fuentes vice president of corporate and governmental affairs for the Stow, Ohio-based logistics, translation and consulting firm, InterChez Logistics Systems: Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not capable of fulfilling a dream you have or a plan you’ve developed.
As you’re transitioning from a small business to a mid-sized entity, hire the expertise you don’t have currently but will need. Owners are entrepreneurial, successful people, but once the businesses they started have expanded, they need to delegate more and hire to fill the need at the next level for finance, operations and marketing. That’s hard for them. They freeze when they see the bigger salaries they have to pay. But if they fail to keep up with new challenges, their businesses will stagnate. They need to pay for expertise and that will help drive that growth.
Links to Minority Small Business Resources
Asian American Business Development Center
Asian-American Entrepreneurs Network
Healthcare Supplier Diversity Alliance
Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
National Association of Minority Contractors
National Minority Business Council
National Minority Supplier Development Council
Professional Women in Construction (PWC)
U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Small Business Adminstration (SBA)